vibes and times of a 80sbby, 90skd and 15man

S.o.S.: Sounds of Summer ’15

ill | Monica and Weezy Get it “Just Right”

Monica has been on somewhat of a hiatus since the mostly forgettable New Life from three years ago. But she’s stayed quite busy attending nursing school and having another bundle of joy with hubby Shannon Brown. Luckily she’s wondered back in the studio to prep her next LP, Code Red. And from the jump she’s setting the tone as a return to her soulfully-spun hood hymns.

The Polow Da Don produced “Just Right For Me” finds Miss Thang exclaiming unconditional love for her man, despite his past. No one is perfect, but her select suitor fits her to a tee. Mo took the smart route keeping Wayne’s assistance to a minimum of just an intro verse, allowing her to shine for the rest of the track. Peep the heat below.

New New: “The Blacker The Berry” Kendrick Lamar

The Grammys went another year void of any hip-hop presence, and it’s a shame after the incredible performance Kendrick gave last year. New year same shit, and K-Dot’s had enough of it with is latest track dropping just minutes ago. With his untitled sophomore project still in the works for a release this year, anticipation is at an all-time how. First “i” which coveted two Grammys, and now the scathing Boi-1da-prodcued “The Blacker The Berry.”

Lamar channels an inner frustration of how black is viewed globally to burn a system institutionally organized against us. If some reason you thought “i” was “safe,” the new song is anything but. Peep it below.

illReview: “Reality Show” Jazmine Sullivan

A braver, happier Jazmine Sullivan emerged from a five year break at a live show overseas last year. The footage sparked a fervor for new music and pretty soon news of her third LP spread. Months later we were blessed with the first single from Reality Show, Sullivan’s first album since 2010’s Love Me Back. Sullivan credits personal growth and the end of an unhealthy relationship for her time away. Fortunately Jaz stirkes forward on Reality Show, sparring the good and bad of love  while finding love for oneself.

Much like her previous works, Show stretches between heartache and heart-filled midtempo songs and ballads. Sullivan’s voice is as remarkable as before, dousing all tracks with her signature silken-velvet vocals. While she doesn’t veer from her soul roots, she explores different sounds production wise, displaying a fun versatility. The album opens with “Dumb,” the single with fellow Philadelphian Meek Mill. While it isn’t a wowing track, it’s catchy enough for the radio. Next is her latest single “Mascara,” the slow-burn examination of the “Kim Kardashian” lifestyle. Sounding like a Frank Ocean track, Jazmine’s trophy girl is convinced she’s got it made, detailing how her working smarter has garnered her all these things.

“Brand New” is a jazz-infused song of how money changes things in a relationship. When her man gets some cash, he forgets who was down before the rise. “Silver Lining” shows Jazmine’s knack for setting a scene. Someone tired of living down seeks the quick come up at any cost. “#Hoodlove” with the aforementioned hastag grinds atop a syrupy bass while Jazmine swears she’s “gon ride this bitch till the wheels fall off.” It’s here she exasperates some of her killer vocal runs.

The next three tracks may be the best on the album. It starts with the After 7-inspired “Let It Burn.” Sullivan describes the burst of flames one’s experiences at love’s first lighting. It’s throwback perfection. As love turns to lust, the next track is the hauntingly sensual “Veins.” That burning love has transformed into an unhealthy need one can’t resist. When the high is over, we’re led to “Forever Don’t Last,” the beautifully-sad breakup track that is her second single.

The next two songs is where the experimentation takes place. “Stupid Girl” possess a 60s soul vibe a la Amy Winehouse as Sullivan confesses she’s been stupid in love, bowing for a man’s affection. “Stanley” is a pop contraption echoing Lady Gaga tease. It pops with disco claps and snaps.

The final two songs encompass somewhat the most personal sentiments on the album. I’ll begin with the a latter. “If You Dare” challenges the listener to be more carefree atop soul claps and a steady bass line. It too mimics the retro feel of “Stupid Girl.” “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)” is Jazmine’s ode to herself. Plagued by insecurities in the past, she commands a new found view of self. “Masterpiece” may be the most impressive audibly. Sullivan’s voice glides over a bed of guitar and drums; warm and lush. It’s Reality Show‘s biggest song and would be even bigger live.

In all the album is a great return to form for a talent so dear to the R&B community.

20ill14: illist albums of the year

Now that you know which songs consumed my earbuds this year, let’s dive into the entire projects I spun the most. I even surprised myself this year venturing into genres and artists I would never had listened to years ago. I’m growing.


Big K.R.I.T. scored the perfect mix of southern hospitality and mainstream variants on his highly-anticipated sophomore album. Five albums in fans and critics alike knew he had the ability to create something ideally him framed in a more potent, masterful package. On the wheels of “Mt. Olympus,” listeners knew to expect his lyrical prowess paired with caliber production from different sources. Best tracks: “Life” “Soul Food” “Lost Generation”

AQUARIUS | Tinahse

The R&B siren surprised many with the totality of her debut. She may have turned the clubs out with her Mustard-produced “2 On,” but Tinahse proved to be more than a party-vocal girl. Her 18-track LP is laced with exceptional production and heartfelt content. Boasting similarities to a 90s Janet Jackson album, Tinashe etched a great first mark on the scene. Best tracks: “How Many Times” “Bet” “Feels Like Vegas”

TOUGH LOVE | Jessie Ware

Brit import Jessie Ware compiled one of the year’s best albums. Period. Songs written on the varied winds of love, her album dances effortlessly from flirty midtempo tracks to serene pop ballads. “Say You Love Me” is a excellent example of Ware’s ability to evoke such emotion with a song so simple. Less is always more. Best tracks: “Cruel” “Kind of…Sometimes…Maybe” “All On You”


Making noise since 2009, Daley finally released his soulfully forward debut. First wowing R&B fans with “Alone Together,” the songwriter accompanied his previous single with stirring slow jams and equally haunting love songs. R&B is headed in a different direction, and Daley is definitely a front-runner in its resurgence. Best tracks: “Be” “Time Travel” “Blame the World”


Jermaine Cole calmly delivered the most successful hip-hop album with no single, promotion or radio fare. The genuine approach to his third album’s release reflected the need for real from hip-hop fans and the country as a whole. It began with “Be Free,” an ode to Michael Brown and the lives taken by police brutality. The song set off a non-campaign campaign, opening the floodgates for eager ears once the album surfaced. Best tracks: “’03 Adolescence” “Fire Squad” “Love Yourz”


The musical savant idolized as a modern Marvin Gaye returned 14 years after his critically-acclaimed Voodoo. After touring and award show appearances, his all live everything album dropped at midnight, digitally breaking the internet. The combination of funk, soul and political rhetoric all laced in his unique language of love marked a triumphant moment in blackness. Best tracks: “Really Love” “Prayer” “Another Life”


Mostly known for 2012’s “212” and lasting Twitter squabbles, NYC’s Azealia Banks released her impressive debut. While many (including me) slept on the eclectic emcee’s catalog, Banks gets all credit due for creative leaps and bounds. When the only shine for females in hip-hop goes to Nicki or Iggy, Banks flexes her natural raw talent atop diverse house and dance influenced rhythms. There’s more to her production than beef and one hit fame. Best tracks: “BBD” “Soda” “Chasing Time”


Canadian dancer and vocalist surprised the dance realm with “Hideaway,” her upbeat throwback to 1990s dance. Her album itself embodied something of yesteryear but revamped. Her versatility is stretched on display going from electronic, to R&B, to straight pop ballad. The 25-year-old is capable of much more beyond her years. Best tracks: “Bad Thing” “The Love” “So Deep”

20ill14: 50 songs of the year

  • “Something Good” – Estelle
  • Push” – Nick Jonas burst out the seams of adolescence and several pairs of jeans as he dropped his self-titled album. The 22-year-old veered to the realm of sex&B pop like former white pop group males so often do. This is possibly the best song on the project, a sensually synth-infused love song.
  • “Aerosol Can” – Major Lazer featuring Pharrell
  • “Options” – Luke James featuring Rick Ross
  • Follow” – Mary took the road less traveled as she hopped the Atlantic and gave us The London Sessions. While many devoted fans may not like her foreign sound, the album is really good. And it gave her a chance to reunite with British producer duo Disclosure. Mary perfectly side-steps a sorry lover atop Disclosure’s electronic bliss. Wishing she’d work more with the brothers.
  • “Lemoande” – Danity Kane featuring Tyga
  • “Maybe” – Faith Evans
  • “Busy Earnin’” – Jungle
  • No Flex Zone” – The South is breeding acts at an alarmingly fast rate. This year’s Migos was the phonetically-challenged Rae Sremmurd, two 20-somethings with a knack for ratchet-scented anthems. Their first single erupted this past summer, even making a cameo at Solange’s wedding. If you don’t know, now you knoooooow better.
  • “Never Catch Me” – Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
  • “Strut” – Lenny Kravitz
  • “Bang Bang” – Jessie J featuring Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
  • “Shadow” – Bleachers
  • Blow” – Jarrell Perry is probably unknown to many but the indie vocalist caught my ear this year. Covers are always tricky especially when the selected song is still reverberating fresh in people’s earbuds. His sensually reworking of Beyonce’s ode to love below is perfect in its bold take.
  • Black Out Days” – Another song discovered via Spotify, Phantogram’s dark enchanting song possess on play. Sexy and cynical it reveals something new on each listen. Its usage in the midseason finale of How to Get Away with Murder only made it hotter.
  • Miracle” – Thanks to Janelle Monae I discovered the magic that is Kimbra and this joyous song. Sounding a bit like Monae’s “Letting Go,” Kimbra’s unique voice breezes effortlessly across a feel-good soundtrack like the end of a 90s rom-com.
  • “We Dem Boyz” – Wiz Khalifa
  • “Something to Prove” – Gabi Wilson
  • “Space (Extended)” – Mya
  • Lowkey” – Toronto’s Rochelle Jordan dropped her 1021 project late this year. It came laced with this damn-near perfect telling of unlocking the fence of the friend zone. I think we’ve all been in that sticky situation of like/love.
  • How Many Times” – One of the biggest surprises of the year was R&B newcomer Tinashe and her amazingly constructed Aquarius. While everyone bit “2-On” for the longest time, it’s her refixing of a Janet classic that’s received countless spins. No other feature this year is quite better than Future’s inaudible barking.
  • “Maybe” – Teyana Taylor featuring Yo Gotti & Pusha T
  • “New Flame” – Chris Brown featuring Usher & Rick Ross
  • “Chains” – Nick Jonas
  • “Always” – DJ Scream featuring Tracy T, Que, Gunplay and Waka Flocka Flame
  • Good Kisser” – Since the ladies all expressed their love for some southern comfort last year, Mr. Raymond made it a priority to return the favor. His first single from the ambiguous UR project saw a return to form for the vet. Straight dance-ready R&B. If only he followed it immediately with the scantily-hot “I Don’t Mind,” we might have his album right now.
  • “Time Travel” – Daley
  • Forever Don’t Last” – R&B fanatics rejoiced as Philly’s Jazmine Sullivan announced her return to music. After a hiatus for personal reasons, Sullivan is readying Reality Show for 2015 and has us begging for more with this sorrowful song. Only she can paint the end of a relationship as beautiful as this.
  • “Restart” – Sam Smith
  • Why Do You Lie” – Liv Warfield stormed into my life via her David Letterman late night debut. I was taken aback by her live vocals and the pureness of her gift. I was even more a fan when I discovered she sounded just as good in the studio. No autotuned sorcery.
  • “Mandela” – CyHi Da Prince
  • Losin’ My Mind” – the dance floor received a boost from Canadian vocalist Kiesza. Her debut sported various genres including this Tara Kemp-esque ode to new love. Its usage of melody, boom bap and synths sounded every bit of early 90s.
  • “Midnight Caller” – Jessie Ware
  • Dedicated” – One of the most disappointing moments in music this year was the empty release of a very good R&B project. Mariah Carey’s .Me…I Am stumbled out the gate blessing a select few with this triumphant tribute to yesteryear. The song is perfect and deserves a hip-hop remix featuring 90s favorite lyricists.
  • “Stay – ‘Soul Lifted’” – Liv Warfield
  • Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson prepares his funkdafied album with the Bruno Mars-assisted ode to The Time and 80s synth-&B. Mars is undisputedly a pupil of the funk and soul gods, and Ronson’s knack for recreating an era’s sound is unmatched.
  • “Move That Dope” – Future featuring Pusha T & Pharrell
  • “Fight Night” – Migos
  • No Type” – Beneath the Mike Will Made It production and absurd octaves, Rae Sremmurd composed a truly life-altering mantra. For people consumed by the cumbersome obstacles of adulthood, play this and let its word minister to your being. “I’m just living life. Cups with the ice and we do this every night.”
  • Another Life” – D’Angelo broke the internet with the arrival of Black Messiah. An album fourteen years in the making, its twelve tracks injected a dose of life in a rather stagnant black mindset. The finale’s illustration of escapism in love is musical euphoria. All live literally giving life to what many consider a dying art.
  • Wrote A Song About You” – Dance music etched a special place in 2014 and my iTunes with the help of songwriter/singer MNEK. His house-powered single dried the tears of the brokenhearted long enough to two-step to the infectious beat.
  • “Hideaway” – Kiesza
  • “Be” – Daley
  • F For You (Remix)” – Never in a million years did anyone see this collaboration happening. Newcomers Disclosure in all their electronic glory reached out to the Queen of Hip-hop/Soul for one of my favorite remixes of the year. Adding Mary’s vocals to already hot track equaled house bliss and paved the way for her underrated The London Sessions.
  • “Studio” – Schoolboy Q featuring BJ the Chicago Kid
  • Right Here” – my top played Spotify track of the year came in the form of UK vocalist Jess Glynne’s glorious first single. While many know her voice from Coca-Cola’s use of “I Rather Be,” Glynne impressed me with this irresistible blast from the past.
  • Say You Love Me” – Ware’s Tough Love rode the wings of this beautifully-scribed ballad, showcasing her versatility and ability to top the pop charts. Its harmonious climax clad with backing choir echoes some of pop’s masterful songs of the past.
  • “Latch” –Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
  • “Mt. Olympus” – Big K.R.I.T.
  • i” – My favorite song of 2014 goes to Kendrick Lamar and his bold statement of black love. A love for self and love for the lives that go unnoticed and unheard by the masses. In a year where black lives were repeatedly dismissed, this testimony served as a beacon of hope in a moment of darkness. The dawn to a long, harrowing night.

New New: “i” Kendrick Lamar, video

In a country where the essence of blackness isn’t always admired for its perfect imperfections, Kendrick Lamar reiterates a theme of self-love once prominent in the black community of the 1960s and 70s. Laced with Ron Isley and his brothers’ classic ode to a lady, “i” breathes the resilience of a people, culture, in a mere three minutes. In a year that has rocked the souls of black folks, this is a reminder that we’ve been here before, and  love as always will conquer all.

Peace. Love. Soul.


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